Wednesday, July 29, 2015

right now


The thing about blogging is that when you get sick and take a break you don’t know how to come back.

It feels like so much has happened in July. Big things like our anniversary. And my birthday. But where do I begin?

So instead I’ll begin with right now.



Today I was listening to a story about Jarvis Jay Masters, a practicing Tibetan Buddhist who lives on death row at San Quentin Prison.

This is the story. One winter day he was in the prison yard when a seagull landed nearby.  Almost immediately a big, young, prisoner grabbed a rock to throw at the seagull but Jarvis raised his arm to stop him, creating tension on the prison yard. Other prisoners gathered around the two but all Jarvis said was, “That bird got my wings.”

That bird got my wings.

And the rock thrower stopped. Everyone relaxed. And for days afterwards other inmates came up and asked him to explain what he meant.

They wanted to hear more about that spirit of freedom. The idea that we all have these wings of awareness and love that can bring us to a certain kind of freedom. 

The freedom symbolized by those wings.

Listening to Tara Brach’s discussion of this story was thought-provoking. 
Even though Jarvis lives in prison, she points out that we all have our own external and internal prisons to deal with; we all are guilty of trying to squeeze ourselves into smaller versions of who we can be (internal prison).

We hitch our identities on to “labels” and brands and material possessions that limit who we are. How we see ourselves. Instead we become…

The stressed one.

The one who can’t do it right.

The one who wants to control.

The one who has too many demands.

The victim.

This is the opposite of freedom. When we’re caught up in comparing ourselves to other people and always worrying about what’s around the corner and trying to control what’s around us.

The Buddhists tell us these behaviors are all a form of suffering.

When we are suffering like this we are living out a smaller version of who we can be.

But at any moment we can stop. Put the rock down. We can wake up from our limited view of ourselves and challenge our own narrative…question what we believe about ourselves.

We can choose to be awakened.

One breath at a time.



the present





today I wish you wings.






Sunday, July 19, 2015

3 stylish ideas for your alfresco table


With our backyard going through major renovations lately, I’ve really missed the fun of setting a pretty outdoor table.


The minute I saw these concrete taper holders I knew this was my next DIY  project. I think they look so chic mixed in with layers of fresh eucalyptus, don’t you think?

Combined with a gray and black themed table too. It’s pure garden elegance.

Anthropologie sold a version that’s no longer available but I found plenty of DIY cement pillars to choose from. Here’s one tutorial that offers lots of possibilities. As soon as I get done with some of our bigger projects,  I want to make these.


Another idea on my to-do list is this one. Last weekend I stopped by the Urban Gardener in Newport Beach and when I saw their lighting display I instantly filed this idea away.

I can’t wait to get my new lights up so I can do this.


Adding little strips of fabric to your outdoor light strands is so simple and you can get creative with your color and patterns.

I’d like to use muslin and cotton strips in shades of white and cream. Especially with a few lace remnants added. Wouldn’t that be so pretty at night?


The other detail I noticed in their garden were these green apples (real ones) sitting in topiaries. It reminded me of how wonderful it looks when you mix real fruit into your centerpieces.


I’ve seen small inexpensive crates like this sold at craft stores like Michael’s. And these crates could be stained or distressed before putting your topiary inside.



Adding a French metal number similar to THESE ones sold on Etsy would dress it up too.



Have you been enjoying your outdoor space this summer?

I hope so.

Right now I’m  trying to recover from an awful cough and cold that took me by surprise. Got my meds yesterday though so I hope to be back posting soon.






Wednesday, July 8, 2015

If I asked you this question could you answer it?



(This post is part of my 5 Books that Changed My Life series. Here’s my Book #2)


If I asked you to name five books that changed your life could you immediately name them?

Because I’m realizing that to proclaim a book somehow changed my life is vastly different than saying I loved a book because the story was a page-turner, or the characters were   multidimensional people.

This is the reason I’ve decided to simplify things for this series. I’ve decided to narrow my focus to nonfiction books, and eliminate the paralyzing indecision I’d face rummaging through piles of literary classics.

I’ve also decided to rely on my gut reaction when weighing a book’s legacy on my life.

Instead falling back on the usual best sellers, I’ve turned to small, idiosyncratic books that had surprised me at the time, shifted my perspective with an intriguing concept or even a few penetrating lines.

Will my five books affect you the same way?

Probably not, because books that are true game changers in one’s life are by nature, highly personal. They speak to you for a reason. They answer a question that might not even be fully formed on your lips, and yet you recognize when you’re reading words that form puzzle pieces of your life.

Yes, this is it,”  you whisper to the open pages of your book.

When I first read The Drama of A Gifted Child by Alice Miller I remember needing to sit down. The content felt that powerful. I was twenty six year old and up until that moment I had never had someone capture so much of my own personal story as vividly, and with such candor on a page.

Looking back now, I see it as a serendipitous collusion between reader,  material and perfect timing. “I once was lost but now am found,” goes the soulful hymn, and for me, that’s pretty much how this book felt.

At the time I was in grad school in a frenetic pursuit of my Masters degree.

Back then, everything related to achievement had an obsessive quality, although I didn’t slow down long enough to question it. I was driven by my dream of working inside the session room, but like a lot of young, would-be therapists, I had embarked on this journey with an inner life that was largely unexamined.

I hadn’t yet begun my own therapy (a requirement for future clinicians) when I landed my dream job in a in-patient Eating Disorder Treatment Program at a major hospital. Despite my lack of real life experience, I had been hired as the unit’s intake coordinator and part-time family group therapist, and I was absolutely giddy.

A 24 hour clinical setting. Real life patients. Intense family dynamics. Raw, mercurial emotions flying off the walls. This was the world I had been waiting to inhabit. But as this  stretch of blue carpeted hallway with its bustling nursing station became my new home, it wasn’t long before I began to feel like I was living the life of an imposter.

The truth was, being in a place dominated by weight obsessions, secretive food behaviors and women who were good at smiling and hiding their insecurities and shame from the outside world, felt strangely familiar. Women who were plagued by feelings of inadequacy, of not measuring up, of not being good enough. Double check.

This was my first real immersion into other people’s pain, and working with these women--from all walks of life- who had spent most of their lives living out other people’s versions of who they should be, slowly unleashed a stunning recognition in me.

I hadn’t begun to deal with my own emotional baggage.

During my day job, I clung to the sharp edges of my professional role, dressed in my size 4 Ann Taylor skirts and exuding a confidence I didn’t feel, while in the evenings after a mad dash through the LA traffic, I transformed into grad student again, painfully aware of my raw, confusing feelings bubbling to the surface.

Needless to say, managing the combustion of these two distinct worlds left me emotionally white-knuckled and exhausted. But looking back now, I see how ripe I was for introspection. And ready for that personal truth you crave in your twenties.

This was the period in my life when I first discovered books written by a psychoanalyst named Alice Miller. This is when I first read The Drama of a Gifted Child, with those powerful first chapters.


for a child to know a certain feeling, they must first have had someone do this for them,  someone there who had recognized the feeling in them, helped them find words to understand it, and most importantly accepted it…..


What is it about this book that stands out after all these years?

Maybe the simplest answer is this one.  Alice Miller’s Drama of a Gifted Child gave me words to explain what was previously unexplainable. Her writing about a true self and of ‘lost feelings’ encouraged me to explore my own earliest relationships. And during a time when so many of my feelings—insecurities and shame-- were shrouded in mystery, this book read like a warm, encouraging nod. 

Alice Miller wrote this book to shed light on a certain kind of person that kept showing up in her office for treatment. She used the term ‘gifted’ to explain the kind of children these adults once were in their families. And the term has nothing to do with a child’s academic grades or special talents. But instead, she was referring to a child’s ability to develop an intuitive ‘antennae’ for reading the feelings of others.


‘There was a caretaker who at their core was emotionally insecure and who depended on their child behaving a certain way for their emotional equilibrium.’

Alice Miller


A child who learned to watch and smile and make others proud.  A sensitive child who was alert to the emotional state of a needy or demanding parent. And who performed these caretaking expectations dutifully.

These were the kind of adults that ended up in Alice Miller’s session room over and over again. And as she noted, these were often the type of adults that became psychotherapists, a fact that jolted me.

People who were the pride of their families, who were often considered ‘special’ as children, and were later admired by others for their successes and achievement. People who should have been ‘happy’ based on their external circumstances but who weren’t. Not down deep.

Something missing

What become evident in Miller’s work with these patients is that as soon as the person was no longer in the spotlight, or “on top,” when they were no longer in the process of achieving, winning, or buying something. And the emotional “high” of their latest accomplishment had worn off, dark feelings slowly surfaced.

This was the important clue. What are the feelings that surface in the quietness?

And what Miller kept hearing about was a sense of emptiness.  A lack of vitality and futility. The robotic feeling of simply going through the motions.

And a nagging confusion about why?

But now we get to the content of the book that is really beyond the scope of this post.

However, if you take anything away from my book sharing today, I hope it’s this. Whenever your feelings seem confusing and inexplicable, be curious to know yourself better. 

Because you deserve to feel whole.


Ten Things I Learned On My Way to Knowing ME


  1. You can grow up in a loving family and still feel alone.
  2. You can grow up in a loving family and still feel a nagging sense of not being good enough.
  3. Be reassured that these emotions will always make sense when you take time to look inside. And do the work.
  4. You find what you seek.
  5. Never accept someone’s trivialization of your feelings. You deserve to be heard.
  6. Know that there is a reason why you feel something.
  7. You are not imaging your feelings. You are not “too sensitive.” Your feelings are not wrong.
  8. Never be afraid of knowing yourself deeply, this is the way you’ll find ultimate peace.
  9. Embrace your past as a way of understanding who you are today, but recognize that today is where your precious life is.
  10. Today is a new beginning.



So tell me…

do you have a book that came along at a perfect time?





Book One—5 Books that Changed My Life



sharing with friends is what it’s all about:

The Scoop, Inspire Me Tuesday, Style Focus, Wow Us Wednesdays, Elizabeth & Co





Wednesday, July 1, 2015

random summer thoughts


hello july

Well as usual there’s a lot happening around here. We’re knee deep in decomposed granite (literally) since it’s currently in a pile on our driveway awaiting the addition of 10 pounds of stabilizer before it becomes a legitimate patio. I’ve got pictures coming soon.

Meanwhile I’ve started and stopped painting the room with the new French doors –shoveling anything will do that to me…

which now makes a total of two rooms –oops, three counting the newly sprayed laundry room, that are officially in various states of renovation ( i.e. visual chaos).

The good thing is that I’m on Day 16 of my yoga challenge and I’m already feeling the peaceful affects. Thank goodness, I think my muscles are now over the toughest part.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on my latest blog series (Five Books that Changed my Life) and I’m really enjoying the process. I hope you check back in and offer your own thoughts. I’m so genuinely touched whenever you take the time to share bits and pieces of your own  personal story.

Before I go here’s a few topics you might enjoy:




white jeans- picking out the right ones 

a company that makes Belgian linen slipcovers for Ikea couches!

thinking about reading this book—the fastest selling adult novel of all time

an interesting blog manifesto

thoughts on being a deep person (these five qualities)

before your kids get too cool to listen-10 things (I sure hope I said)

the unconventional way one woman saved her marriage

Jessica Helgerson’s pretty house





Hmm..what do you want your July to be about?






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Thursday, June 25, 2015

5 books that changed my life.



Have you ever wondered why it is that some books stay with us long after we close their covers?

How the mere mention of a book title can transport us back to a distant time in our lives, make us smile wistfully and ask ourselves,

“Now what was it about that book again?”

Book lovers know that long, engrossing conversations about books are like food for our soul, they nourish us and feed our voracious appetite for even more books, and more reading.

Personally, there’s nothing that gets my attention faster than seeing a blog post on the subjects of books.

And while hearing about plots are nice. And reviews are helpful.

Do you know what I really want to hear when you tell me about your favorite books?

I want gut reactions. I want passion. I want messy, unedited feelings.

I want to know if this book got under your skin and why.

I want to know the first words that appear on the tip of your tongue when you think about this book, even if it’s only a hint of something, like that moment you recognize a  face in a crowd but you can’t remember their name.

It’s that lingering sensation after you finish a book. That’s what I want to explore with you.

I’ve been wanting to write a post about books that have changed my life ever since we moved and I found myself rummaging through boxes of books I’ve collected over years. Funny how simply running your hand over a book can evoke old feelings. It reminds me of this quote by Maya Angelou:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Well I think books can have a similar affect on us, we might not be able to retrieve specific details years later, but we remember how they made us feel.

Do you agree?

Because today I’m sharing a few books that changed the trajectory of my life. Books that jolted me out of an emotional stuckness I didn’t realize I was in and therefore, changed me from the inside out. Although you probably realize this, like most transformative events timing is everything.

When I look at my selections, I realize that so much of their power came from the shifting ground beneath my feet during the time I stumbled on them; I was young, vulnerable and at a crossroads in my life. Although I didn’t realize it at the time.

These books lovingly introduced me to a place inside myself I was only beginning to know.


1. The Octopus; by Frank Norris

I remember sitting in a office, squeezed between a cheap wooden desk and a gray metal bookshelf crammed with files and textbooks. My history professor was a small, wiry guy with a gray speckled beard and dark, bushy eyebrows who wore jeans and white collared shirts. I was there to get my midterm grade that was based solely on a 40 minute oral presentation and I still remember him staring intently at me over his glasses before he asked me this question.

“So. Do you know what a sleeper hit is?”

I shook my head, unsure how this question had anything to do with my recent performance in class.

“A sleeper hit is well, you know Woody Allen’s movie, Annie Hall?  That’s a sleeper. It’s actually taken the critics by surprise….have you seen it yet?”

He waited until I shook my head.

“.. I’m telling you this because well…that’s you. And I have to tell you.” He nodded toward me as he lit up his pipe.  “I sure didn’t see you coming.”

And this is the moment I’ll never forgot.

He looked at me and said, “You are what I’d call a sleeper. A hidden gem. That—by-the-way, was the best oral presentation I’ve seen in a long time.”

And today, decades later when I think about The Octopus, Frank Norris’s literary masterpiece I think of being captivated by history and layers of family relationships, and how later I would became a therapist whose work was to listen to family histories and deal with complex dynamics.

When I think of The Octopus I remember speaking in front of a classroom and feeling gloriously alive.

When I think of The Octopus I think about a spring day in a windowless office surrounded by old textbooks and the musky scent of pipe smoke.

When I think of The Octopus, I remember what it feels like to be a nineteen year old girl. And the scary feeling of drifting and the joy of being found.

This was the period when I was trudging along in a local community college, buoyed  only by the comforting sense of identity I got as student; I had no one on either side of my family who had ever gone to college. I slipped in and out of the academic world the way a visitor steps into an alternative universe. And before this meeting, I’d had no adult who gave me a second glance.

You are a sleeper, he’d said. A hidden gem. And these words became my lifeboat during a  rudderless period in my life.

Sometimes it only takes a passing comment to awaken something inside us. A few well- chosen words that offer us something tangible to hold on to until we find our bearings.


Have you ever felt yourself adrift in your life?

Was there a person who saw something special about you at a crucial time?   






to be continued: Book 2: Drama of a Gifted Child; Alice Miller



I’m partying at French Country Cottage and Grace at Home








Friday, June 19, 2015

Garden Charm ….5 weekend projects on my list




The other day I came home with 96 feet of outdoor café lights.


Here they are, still sitting in the boxes waiting for us to catch up with our landscaping in the backyard. But have you seen these at your neighborhood Costco yet?



1. hanging café lights

I checked online and saw they had great reviews so I didn’t hesitate. Because ever since I stumbled on this tutorial I’ve been wanting to add these lights to our new outdoor space.

outdoor living room

The best part of this project is realizing you don’t have to have an outdoor structure…


…or a giant tree to have twinkling lights hanging in your backyard.



2. getting creative with solar lights

Speaking of lighting I saw some creative ideas for using inexpensive solar lights. I haven’t used solar lights before have you?

But tucking them into planters looks like a great idea.



So does this. Taking dollar tree solar lights apart and putting them into Tiki torches.



One project we did complete recently was to plant 4 huge palm trees as anchors for a future dining area. And we plan on wrapping them with white lights like this.

I’ll keep you posted on this project but first we still have to finish the surrounding area around them.


Right now were planning on using pavers with either regular grass or a ground covering between the pavers. Something like this.

If so, this would be the only grass in our little backyard. Because we’re in the middle of a serious drought in California our landscape decisions have been very conscientious of water usage.

3. collecting green bottles for outdoor tablescapes


Here’s something else on my mind. Saving our green wine bottles! Look how pretty they look when they’re displayed en masse…



Looks like I’m going to have to find a new favorite wine inside this shade of green though..which is not so easy to find. Any recommendations?


4. transforming a birdcage into planter

And finally.

Here’s something I can do with my old birdcage I just couldn’t let go of….

add some succulents to it and hang it outside.

I recently discovered a local garden designer---literally down the street--- who creates beautiful displays of succulents. You can see some of her ideas HERE.




And now that we’ve gotten rid of a very oddly placed door—

we actually have some outdoor wall space for a rustic mirror.


Molly Wood Garden Design

5. adding a mirror outside

Something similar to this one but at a great price, of course.

Which means I’ll probably be scouring flea markets and quirky shops for awhile.

(but you know me. I consider that the fun part)



Have a wonderful Father’s Day weekend my friends!!






partying at the French Country Cottage 



Monday, June 15, 2015

delicious white cake recipe…with fresh strawberries and cream


This weekend I had an abundance of juicy, ripe strawberries and I decided to go on a recipe hunt for a really moist white cake.

Are you looking for a dessert for your Fourth of July barbecue?

Because after scouring over lots of ingredients I decided to try this RECIPE and you know what?

It’s a keeper.



After a weekend spent working in the backyard, I was in the mood to enjoy the slow, methodical movements involved in baking a cake.

…when you have to blend each of the five eggs into the fluffy butter mixture before adding the next one…



…and take time to sift together the floor and salt and baking powder in a glass bowl.


This particular recipe used buttermilk, regular milk and vanilla extract whisked together in a measuring cup…

then added into the butter mixture and dry ingredients, blending well after each pour.



There is nothing more enticing than seeing thick, sweet cake batter dripping off the beaters

don’t you agree?


I discovered the key to baking a moist cake is to not over-cook it.

Gotta remember to use that timer.



I frosted the top and middle with vanilla buttercream frosting and served each slice with chilled strawberries and lightly whipped cream.




I hope you enjoy!




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